Mediterranean grief: WHO and selected countries send humanitarian aid to Lebanon

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The World Health Organization (WHO) sent the first shipment of humanitarian aid to Lebanon from the regional headquarters in Dubai on August 5, Izvestia’s press service told Izvestia.… According to the organization, three hospitals have been destroyed in Beirut, two hospitals are only partially functioning, the rest are overwhelmed with wounded. Meanwhile, Lebanon refused to support Israel for political reasons, the government of the Jewish state told Izvestia. The Russian Emergencies Ministry has planned a flight to Lebanon of five aircrafts with humanitarian assistance – most of them have already made flights. The main version of the tragedy is the explosion of ammonium nitrateThe vessel with it was confiscated back in 2014, its owner Igor Grechushkin told Izvestia… He did not know who was in charge of the ship after that.

There is no end to the victims

The exact number of victims in Beirut has yet to be calculated, but now it has exceeded a hundred, more than 5 thousand people have suffered. Orient Queen cruise ship moored in the harbor sank due to destruction at night… Governor of Beirut Marwan Abboud said that about 250 thousand people were left homeless… The country has declared a two-week emergency.

The likely cause of the explosions, apparently, was the reactive ammonium nitrate or ammonium nitrate. This version was made by the Prime Minister of Lebanon Hassan Diab, specifying that there were 2.7 thousand tons of substance in the port… The head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the republic, Mohammed Fahmi, added that the chemicals entered the country back in 2014 after the arrest of a ship – they were confiscated and since then they have been stored in a port warehouse. The color of the smoke after the explosion speaks in favor of the version with nitrate – it was orange-pink, which indicates the presence of nitrogen dioxide in the air.

Based on this data, the Lebanese media suggested that this vessel could be MV Rhosus – it was carrying ammonium nitrate from Batumi to Mozambique. This information was later confirmed by the Georgian Maritime Transport Agency, adding that there is no reason to associate it in any form with this incident. The ship was sailing under the Moldovan flag, its owner is a citizen of the Russian Federation, and now a resident of Cyprus, Igor Grechushkin.

The explosion could have been caused by welding, suggested Lebanese TV channel LBCI. Probably, the sparks hit the container with fireworks and pyrotechnics (this explains the white flashes in the eyewitness videos), and from there they already spread to the warehouse with nitrate.

Help “Izvestia”

Ammonium nitrate (NH₄NO₃) is an industrial chemical used primarily for fertilization and is a good source of nitrogen for plants. It is also used to make explosives in the mining industry. But not only. Saltpeter was used by ISIS to create bombs (prohibited in Russia).

Meanwhile, businessman Igor Grechushkin confirmed to Izvestia that Rhosus was his vessel. He noted that in November 2013, the Lebanese authorities arrested the ship, and the cargo was confiscated, as it was considered dangerous.… This happened due to the lack of the necessary documents and conditions for the transportation of explosive ammonium nitrate. The former owner of the ship explained that the blocking of the flight crippled his business – the company was forced to pay penalties and as a result went bankrupt. He did not know who was in charge of the ship after that.

As indicated on the thematic forum of seamen “Odessa Crewing”, from 2012 to 2014 the ship was owned by Teto Shipping LTD. She was registered in the Marshall Islands.

Inspector of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) Olga Ananyina explained to Izvestia: despite the fact that the ship was owned by a citizen of the Russian Federation, the ship was sailing under the flag of Moldova… As the inspector noted, in this case we are talking about the so-called “gray” schemes in shipping. That is, the ship is registered under a flag convenient for the owner, and after that an offshore company is created to manage it.

Shipowners use such schemes to “obscure the tracks”, avoid taxes and liability, – she concluded.

The captain of the ship Boris Prokoshev told Izvestia that he was hired to bring a batch of saltpeter to Mozambique on Rhosus. The item was originally shipped from Georgia, and the crew picked it up from Turkey in October 2013… Already in Beirut, the team came to pick up additional cargo along the way, but they could not put it on board.

In Beirut, Rhosus was arrested by the Lebanese authorities for non-payment of port dues, added Boris Prokoshev… When all the crew members left the port of the city, the ship was virtually abandoned, and the explosive cargo was placed in a warehouse under the responsibility of the Lebanese Ministry of Transport. The Lebanese department did not respond to Izvestia’s inquiry.

Help from all over the world

Meanwhile, as a result of a powerful explosion that thundered on August 4, three hospitals in Beirut are not functioning, two more are only partially working, the remaining institutions are overflowing with wounded, the WHO press service told Izvestia.… At the request of the Lebanese Minister of Health, the organization promised on August 5 to deliver medical supplies from a humane center in Dubai by air. WHO, in collaboration with the Lebanese Ministry of Health, is deploying assistance to victims not only in Beirut – all clinics in the country will be involved.

Doctors Without Borders began to collect donations (MSF). Immediately after the explosion in Beirut, the organization’s medics spontaneously went to medical facilities to see how they could help treat the numerous wounded, MSF Lebanese Emergency Coordinator Jonathan Whittall told Izvestia.

Humanitarian aid is also flying from Russia. The first plane of the Ministry of Emergency Situations delivered a mobile hospital and doctors of Centrospas to the Lebanese capital on August 5, Timur Hikmatov, Deputy Director of the Information Policy Department of the Russian Emergencies Ministry, told Izvestia.

“In total, about 150 people will be sent to Beirut on five flights of the Ministry of Emergency Situations to provide assistance and liquidate the consequences of the explosion,” the Ministry of Emergency Situations said.… The second plane with the ministry’s specialists flew to Beirut at 17:10. Il-76 plane left for Lebanon at 18:34 with Rospotrebnadzor specialists and a laboratory for the detection of coronavirus. Lebanon remains tough with pandemic, at the end of July, the authorities again imposed restrictions in the republic, however, due to the explosion, the repeated quarantine in Beirut was canceled from August 6. As of August 5, in Lebanon, more than 5 thousand infected and 65 deaths from coronavirus.

Syria expressed its readiness to help Lebanon in the reconstruction of Beirut… Deputy Chairman of the International Committee of the Parliament of the Republic Ammar al-Assad told Izvestia that his country “will spare no effort to support Lebanon.”

“Syria has always been on the side of the Arab brothers in all their trials – on the side of Kuwait when Saddam Hussein invaded it, and on the side of Lebanon in 1973, when Damascus prevented the partition of the country and itself brought thousands of martyrs,” the MP recalled.

The Secretary General of the League of Arab States Ahmed Abu al-Gheit called for general solidarity with Lebanon. On August 4, the emirs of Kuwait and Qatar ordered to send urgent medical assistance to the country, and it comes from the EU, France, Greece and other countries.

One of the first Israel declared its desire to help – despite the lack of diplomatic relations between the two countries and tension on the border.

However, our help by the Lebanese government was rejecteddespite the very grave crisis that developed there after the explosion, Zeev Elkin, a member of Israel’s narrow security cabinet, told Izvestia. – Nevertheless, the offer is still valid.

Again protests

Meanwhile, the explosions have stirred up the political plane of Beirut. The picture has gone viral, urging the world to donate to Lebanon, but not to the government, which is “corrupt and will take aid for itself.”

People blame the government for knowing about the ship, knowing about the cargo that had been stored in the port for so many years, but did nothing to prevent the catastrophe, ”Beirut resident Marilin Ardo explained to Izvestia.

According to the Arabist Ksenia Svetlova, the explosions in Lebanon are symptoms of a long-standing chronic disease – the government’s failure to take control of the country. In May of this year, the expert recalls, Lebanon declared a default on Eurobonds, that is, it officially became a bankrupt country.

Protest demonstrations will resume with renewed vigorLocal journalists are already writing that they used to consider Israel as their enemy, but the enemy is the government, which is unable to lead the country out of the impasse, ”the expert told Izvestia.

She also noted that even if Hezbollah is not involved in the tragedy, criticism against it due to the excessive militarization of South Lebanon and the deployment of military warehouses in densely populated areas of the country will increase.

Beirut is in a state of depression and anger at the ruling power – the explosion occurred as a result of the accumulated corruption and neglect of successive governments, according to a resident of the Lebanese capital, photographer Mohammad Kalit.

– There are many quarrels, both between the families of the perished port employees and the politicians who came to the blast zone, and between those who collect help – there are many different volunteer teams. And they all clash with the guards of the former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, blaming his government for the disaster, ”complains Mohammed. “But there are also many people who simply help: they clean the streets, houses, dismantle the rubble. This disaster reinforced the feeling of popular solidarity from the first moment.

The people were carried out to sea

A resident of Beirut, Marilyn Ardo, told Izvestia that in the city all last night they could not put out the fires in the port area, the search for the missing is still ongoing – many who were in the harbor of the Lebanese capital were carried away to sea.

– We still have not found our friend, he was in the port at that time, many have lost loved ones. But people are trying to help each other – yesterday evening everyone went down to the streets, helping to remove the glass. My friends went to the hospital to help at least something, people went to pharmacies, helped to put stitches right there, wash wounds – hospitals were overcrowded, – said Marilyn.

Meanwhile, some hotels, such as Eden, Matador and large hotel chains, volunteered to accommodate residents of the capital in vacant rooms… Ordinary citizens, not only from Beirut, but also from other cities, also announced their readiness to shelter people.

The famous Syrian poet Nizar Kabbani wrote about Beirut during the Civil War: “who kills the joy that sleeps in your green eyes, who spills fiery water on your wonderful lips?” What happened on August 4 may be difficult to describe poetically, but the list of such questions is now headed by another: “who is to blame for the explosion of saltpeter in your port.” The Lebanese special services are already looking for an answer.

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